Sustaining greenery amid a concrete jungle - City's biggest challenge

Naveen Menezes Gurpur
Daijiworld Media Network - Mangalore (NM)

Mangalore, Jun 5: The widespread competition to earn extra money at the cost of environment is a reality today. Development is measured in terms of high-end buildings, concrete structures and roads, and industries – the sources of immediate economy. Priority to environment is sidelined as it does not contribute to the national income or fill state treasuries. June 5 being World Environment Day, it is time for a reality check.

It is a hard fact, but development projects are to be implemented with utmost care to the environment, as this leads to a healthy living in the long run. Today, buildings have replaced trees, the greenery. Like any other metropolitan city, Mangalore too has adopted a policy of development without giving a second thought to the environmental destruction.

(Pic: Dayanand Kukkaje)

“All that I can see today is buildings and less greenery. Lots of people come to the port city to settle down for education and various other reasons. Construction is boosted to meet the growing demand. As a result, even the little space in the city is being bargained for crores of rupees. Hence, the realtors think of constructing additional buildings rather than planting a tree,” feels Fr Leo D’Souza, director, Lab of Applied Biology, St Aloysius College, who has closely seen the growth of Mangalore over the years.

Roshani Upasna, an IT student adds, “Development and urbanization at the cost of Mother Earth is the saddest part of the entire process. It is as good as making a place look beautiful with all modern, heart throbbing, lustful luxury, and then finally making it a burial spot with environment degradation. Erratic rainfall, imbalance in temperature and climate change are the greatest threat to sustainable growth." 

Economy and Environment

Vidya Dinkar, co-ordinator, Citizen Forum for Mangalore Development, says, “Every kind of development needs to be sustainable. Unfortunately, Mangalore is considered as the ‘dumping ground of Karnataka’. Our city is used to set up hazardous industries, power plants, and petro-chemical industries. Instead, we need ITs, offshore banking, and medical tourism which ensures economic prosperity, growth, and job opportunities using less space without destroying the environment. However, there is no proper vision for Mangalore; the planners have instead welcomed dirty industries to the region.”

“In the city, realtors contribute some more to the destruction of the environment. For every tree that is being cut, a strict policy to plant at least two trees should be made mandatory as compensation. And, its effective implementation is possible only when the rule comes from the legislature,” opines Prof K R Chandrashekar of Mangalore University.

Mangalore South constituency MLA J R Lobo says, “It is possible to maintain a balance between the economy and the environment. More attention must be paid to the education sector by setting up national level institutions. Information Technology (IT), banking and tourism sector in Mangalore have high potential for growth without damaging the environment. Besides, there are plans to introduce manufacturing industries in such a way that it has least effect on the environment. Adopting natural gas instead of coal in the industries can cause less or no environment pollution at all. Natural gas could be used for various purposes. New Delhi uses it for public transport and over the years the pollution level has come down in the capital,” he said and stressed that it needs careful management.

When asked about the construction of buildings in the city at the cost of the environment, Lobo said, “I will hold a discussion with the city planning committee and Mangalore Urban Development Authority (MUDA). We will make it obligatory to plant compensatory trees for every tree that is being cut”.

Dr Shivakumar Magada, professor, Fisheries College, says, “We have enough time to sketch visions for Mangalore, considering the loopholes of other developed states or metro cities. For every small rain, there is flooding in Bangalore. In addition, improper drainage system, failure to dispatch garbage, and water crisis, are some of the common problems of every fast growing city - due to heavy human population. The planners of Mangalore should be prepared to tackle those problems.”

Another Green Revolution

“Everybody knows that there is huge damage to the environment, but nobody is actually bothered.  Deforestation, desertification, cutting down huge trees takes place even today. But the massive revolution to stop such unhealthy practice is non-existent. In history, we have studied about Appiko movement and then about an illiterate ‘Saalumarada’ Thimmakka, who actually worshiped trees and never allowed them to be cut. Such wholehearted adoration is missing among the people,” feels Dr Raviraj Shetty, environmentalist of the year award winner.

Dinkar adds, “Though there are no huge movements taking place, we have protested against any development programmes implemented at the cost of the environment. For the purpose of broadening roads - when many trees were to be felled at Mannagudda and Valencia - the local community responded to protect the avenue trees. I see hope. When such environmental destruction takes place in the neighborhood, their hearts bleed.”

“We could save at least 47 avenue trees at Valencia from being felled by adopting ‘Vriksha Bandhan’ method, despite the strong opposition from the district administrators and bureaucrats. But when such issues take place far from their vicinity, people no longer care. This is unfortunate,” she said.

Besides, Dinkar feels, “With globalization, people appreciate concrete structures than a natural environment. A musical fountain next to their door gives more pleasure and comfort to the human being than a tree.”

Plant a Birthday Tree

“Planting trees, talks creating awareness on environment consciousness are the usual phenomena that take place in the cities and villages. But, that in itself does not serve the purpose. Watering those plants is as important as planting them. However, the idea to plant-a-birthday-tree can be more effective. Here at least, the individual feels like watering the tree regularly; after all it is something related to one’s birthday – and its special,” opines Dr Shetty, underlining the individual efforts towards building a green city.  

He adds, “The belief of our ancestors has been one of the reasons that boosted preservation of nature. Today, sacred trees like ‘naaga bana’ have remained untouched only because of such beliefs. That kind of reverence should be our way of life, and only such respect enables environment protection.”